Let’s ask better questions


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With text analytics and artificial intelligence and sentiment analysis, technology has really moved us into a new world of possibilities when it comes to understanding our Customers’ feedback in a variety of formats.  I’ve seen some pretty amazing uses of this new world of business analytics and high-level number-crunching.  The way some software out there is able to analyze and synthesize even unstructured data is pretty mind-blowing.

So why are we still doing VoC the same way?

I wrote an article a while back that stressed the important rule that lawyers have to never ask a question you already know the answer to.  The genesis of my thought there was related to passing your Customers from one channel to another, either in support or between departments:  Nobody likes having to repeat the same information over and over.  Once I’ve told the first person, I’ve told you…don’t make me repeat it when I’m transferred, which is already an inconvenience.  But I also alluded to surveys:  Why not acknowledge what we already know about an interaction (that triggered the survey in the first place, say) when reaching out for our Customers’ feedback?

We’ve all received surveys receive from brands asking for feedback that’s general and makes no reference to the initial interaction.  They’re probably all like that!  “Based on your most recent interaction…” is a common phrase in most surveys.

This has practical implications:  What if it took more than one interaction?  I called two or three times.  Which one of those triggered this survey?  About which of those calls am I being asked for my feedback?  I worked with a group once that had this problem with their surveys.  They had business rules in place that a survey couldn’t be sent to the same recipient more than once in any 90-day span.  If a Customer called in three times within that period (even if for the same problem), a survey was triggered for the first one, but not for either of the two follow-on incidents.  Rightly so:  You don’t want to overwhelm or pile on to your Customer.  But how many Customers really understood that rule?  Surely, most of the replies would reference the last (literally the “most recent interaction”) incident, or perhaps all of them in toto as one big engagement.  That may be good for general overall feedback, but since it was likely assigned for development purposes to him since it was triggered by his interaction, when the first agent got the response, he may have wondered, “Why did this Customer put in my survey that Sally did a great job fixing the issue?”

Beyond that practical concern of misattribution of survey results, there’s also a shortcoming for Customer relations.  Even beyond the tacky habit some brands have of expecting the Customer to fill in the details of their interaction (in a survey asking for their feedback, no less!), brands are missing a great opportunity to show their genuine interest in hearing what the Customers have to say.  As Customers we’ll receive a survey after making a call to Customer Support wondering where our delayed delivery is.  What was wrong with that interaction?  Well, you delivered my package late, duh.  What if instead you received a survey that went more like:  “Recently you received a shipment from ABC, Inc., late.  We apologize for that and have taken steps to decrease the likelihood of such issues in the future.  Aside from that problem, and considering the totality of your interactions with our brand, how else may we have better served you?”  Naturally, we’d want to offer the Customers a limitless free-text box to go on in as much detail as they’d like, but also allow uploading of files and documents to help elucidate their thoughts.

Now think of what you’re doing here:  You’re acknowledging the Customer’s experience, making explicit that you’re aware of and are working to fix it in the future.  In so doing, you’re freeing your Customer from having to (once again!) go through the whole explanation with you.  Plus, you’re giving your Customer a chance to identify other things that you can work to improve.  After all, you already know that your Customer received the shipment late; you don’t need a survey to tell you that.  Besides, do you need survey results to tell you that’s a bad thing or that it marred their interaction with your brand?  Free your Customers to bring things to your attention that you don’t already know about.

Given the ‘smartness’ of survey companies’ software and data skills, why don’t we try to ‘personalize’ to the greatest degree our surveys based on the experiences that we know the Customer has had?  This will better emphasize that we care about them (by acknowledging it upfront), and free them to give us the more valuable insights:  the ones we’re not already aware of.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Nicholas Zeisler, CCXP, LSSBB
I’m a Customer Experience executive, certified Process Improvement professional, Agile Scrum Master, dynamic educator, change management strategist, and in-demand business and leadership coach. I've worked from the inside and from the outside; in organizations large and small; public sector and private; from oil and gas to technology to non-profit (with lots in between too). I've seen a lot, but I haven't seen it all.


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